Malachi 2 v 17 – 3 v 5
Please turn with me in your Bibles to the book of Malachi – Malachi chapter 2. And we’re going to read together from verse 17 to the 5th verse of the 3rd chapter.
17You have wearied the LORD with your words. But you say, “How have we wearied Him?” By saying, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and He delights in them.” Or by asking, “Where is the God of justice?”
1“Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to His temple; and the Messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, He is coming, says the LORD of hosts. 2But who can endure the day of His coming, and who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap.
3He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD. 4Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years.
5“Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear Me, says the LORD of hosts. (ESV)
Over the next two weeks I’ll be speaking to you from this passage and we will be seeing three things: the murmurers, the messenger and the Messiah. These are the three things that we see – the three characters that we see in the text: the murmurers, the messenger and the Messiah.
We find ourselves in what we may call the fourth disputation of Malachi. It’s the fourth time now that the Lord disputes with him. And we’ve seen so far that the Lord is a witness against adultery and other moral offenses among the people of Israel. That’s what we saw last week. And now we find ourselves in a time that Judah had returned from captivity to the Promised Land and the temple had been rebuilt and you would think that everybody’s happy to be back and everything has been restored. But it’s not entirely the case, because many were distressed at the failure of the prophetic promises of restored prosperity, international prominence for Israel and that they would be wealthy – they were expecting that they were going to be prosperous. Everything is restored there’s the temple according to how the Lord prophesied – there it is, it’s restored! It’s a bit like us when we see the chaos that’s in the world at the moment. And I often wonder ‘why is there so much fake news in the world?’ Maybe it’s because everything around us is so fake. There’s no real news because there’s no real prosperity. There’s no real truth. There’s no real justice. There’s no real goodness. There’s no real beauty. And Judah found themselves in circumstances like that when they were in captivity and they were yearning to get back and have things restored, and here they were. And now they were distressed because it looked to them like a whole failure. They fail to see restored prosperity. They were not becoming internationally prominent as they once were and they were not more wealthy; they weren’t growing in wealth. They were experiencing just social and political oppression and economic lack, but it was still even worse than that because it had been promised that God would come to Jerusalem and God Himself would come to the temple and He would sit there in His glorious presence in the temple. You can go read about these prophecies in several passages. Moses’ Tabernacle and Solomon’s Temple – they were filled with the visible Shekinah Glory of God. As soon as they were completed, there was the glory of God in the Tabernacle and in the temple visible and it was hoped by these people that the same would happen to this Temple that had now been restored and rebuilt, but we see Haggai in chapter 2 verse 9. He promised that the rebuilt temple would be filled with an even greater measure of Glory than Solomon’s and this is what these people were now expecting. We’re back, the temple has been rebuilt; there’s going to be greater glory in this Temple than there was even in Solomon’s. But they weren’t enjoying this radiant Glory – far from it. The temple of Malachi’s day quite sadly was totally devoid of any manifestation of God. It was a dead place! And it wouldn’t always be so, because Malachi said the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to His Temple – as we’ve just read in chapter 3:1. And we know that later on in the New Testament that Simeon witnessed at least something of this in his prophecy when he came to the Temple and saw the Infant Jesus who had come he said: ‘for the glory to your people Israel’, and we see throughout the New Testament further fulfilment of this text in the coming of John the Baptist and the first coming of the Lord Jesus, because only the glory of God in the glorious Person of the Lord Jesus Christ could bring greater glory to the restored Temple than the glory of the Tabernacle and the Temple of Solomon. And so there they were and they weren’t experiencing what they were expecting and now they began to murmur – they began to mutter certain words. We often hear them in our society. As a pastor I often hear them. And don’t feel bad now if you’ve said them in my study. I love you, you know I love you. Why is the Lord doing this to me? Why has this have to happen to me? Or people defending their own sin and dressing it up in something nice. The people in Judas time were doing something similar. That’s why I call them the murmurers. And then next week we’ll look at the messenger, which is John the Baptist whom the Lord said He would send. And then we’ll see the Messiah coming to His Temple.
But tonight, because of what I preached this morning, I want to talk about the murmurers, and I want to tie it in with something that I said about allegations that the Pope said that the church needed a new book; the Bible’s outdated and so on. And when I went and Googled it this afternoon – because I didn’t get that on Google, and I didn’t get it in one of my WhatsApp videos (I want to disappoint my congregation to let you know there are very few of the videos that you send me I even open – I just don’t have the time). I heard this from a traditionalist Roman Catholic priest from the SSP 10 (it’s not SSPX by the way – it’s SSP 10 – the ‘X’ is a 10). It’s called The Society of Saint Pius the tenth – it s a Roman Catholic church adjacent to the Vatican – to Novus Ordo Catholic church. Now those of you who know me know that the Lord in his Providence made me study Roman Catholic theology at one time. I feel very eccentric in that because I often think of this: What was the Lord doing to me? I’m the only Reformed Baptist Church Pastor in the world with the Roman Catholic master’s degree in the 1689 Baptist confession of faith. How did that happen? I spent a lot of time among Catholics and I have studied the Catholic Church. I’ve studied Catholic Doctrine and I’ve got Ludwick’s Ort The Fundamentals of Dogma – the whole top shelf in my library – some of you have seen and I’ve seen some of you look at it very suspiciously up like that. ‘It’s all Roman Catholic books up there!’ So are all the church fathers collections that I have. But he let me know about this. Now, some of what was reported on that is indeed fake news, but not all of it, because I’ve been watching Bergoglio for a long time. Since I started studying Catholic theology I’ve been studying him, even while Ratzinger was still Pope – Benedict the 16th (XVI). If you want to know who Bergoglio is – how many of you know who Bergoglio is? Put up your hands if you know who Bergoglio is… one two, three, four, five six people. Bergoglio, Cardinal Bergoglio, is now Pope Francis – that’s who he is. And even if it’s fake news that he said verbatim that the church needs a new book, we need to not let him off the hook that easily, and I’m going to tell you why: Because I find with him also one of those who is what we may call one of the murmurers who weary the Lord with their words. Why do I say that? There’s a good reason why I say that, and I want to share that with you this evening. We’re going to look at what Malachi has to say about these people in Judah’s day. The Lord is saying to them that they are wearying Him with their words. And that’s a very, very serious, serious indictment, is it not? “You weary Me with your words.” You have wearied the Lord with your words and then you say: ‘How have we wearied Him? Now, we need to consider this together: How have they wearied the Lord with their words? We’re going to see first of all,
- Their wearying of the Lord.
He says you’ve wearied the Lord with their words, but you say ‘how have we wearied Him?’ Now, how can we weary the Lord and what does that mean? To weary somebody is to make them tired. I showed some of you a picture of a baboon hanging over a branch like that, and it said: ‘Ek is moeg, man!’ (I am tired, man!) Can the Lord get weary in that way? What does the Bible say about God getting weary? Isaiah 40:28: “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable.” And that seems to contradict what Malachi is saying to us now – that the Lord says that they are wearying Him with their words. Isaiah 7:13 says to us: “Listen now, o House of David! Is it too slight a thing for you to try the patience of men that you will try the patience of my God as well?” Somebody who becomes weary, their patience wears thin. That is what happens. Isaiah 11:4: “I hate your new moon festivals in your appointed feasts. They have become a burden to Me. I am weary of bearing them.” Isaiah 43:24: “You have bought Me not sweet cane with money, nor have you filled Me with the fat of your sacrifices. Rather, you have burdened Me with your sins. You have wearied Me with your iniquities, says the Lord.” And what that means there comes a time where the Lord’s patience wears thin. That’s what it means. When the Lord is wearied by our words, wearied by our sins. That’s what Malachi says – they have wearied the Lord with their words, that’s the wearing of the Lord and for many centuries now, we have seen this – for many generations we have seen this. People murmur about the Lord and His Word. Is He saying this? Is He saying that? Who’s right about it? Who’s wrong about it? And we say words to the Lord that are not the words that the Lord spoke. How do they weary the Lord? That’s their question: ‘How have we wearied You?’ they say to the Lord. He said by your words – by your words – by saying everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord and He delights in them and ‘where is the God of Justice?’
- Misrepresenting God Wearies Him
In other words people say things. They say certain things – certain words to the Lord that distorts what the Lord is saying and that wearies the Lord. And He tells us about it in Isaiah 5:20: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil who put darkness for light and light for darkness who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” That’s very similar to what Malachi is saying: ‘everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord.’ Do we live in a world where you see that? Listen to me: Don’t hate homosexuals. They’re not more sinful than you and I are, but the Bible condemns it and we live in a world where people call what God calls evil they call good! The same goes for all the other sins. I just used that as an example. To kill babies in their mother’s womb – and nowadays even apparently once they are even out – is wrong! And they call it good! And the Lord is wearied by this. And as we see the rise of secularism and humanism across the world and every single channel that you can put on television just blasting this in your face from the morning to the night – the worst culprit in the world: CNN – which none of you should watch – it wearies the Lord! To hear people stand in positions of power and all the time say the opposite to what the God of Glory is saying. It’s what Luther stood up against in the Reformation. May the Lord raise up some more like him! These words weary the Lord! But why do they do it? Now I want to give great credit to my brother whom I love very much. And the more I read about him, the more I love him. And you know, I’m not into celebrity pastors and so on. You know that don’t you? Well, let me tell you I love my brother John Piper. I love that brother and I want to share with you in the remainder of my message something that he said that I wanted to say. And I remembered: ‘wait a minute, Dr. John said something about this sometime back already’ – some years back already. And he says it better than anyone can say it. So I’m going to share the bulk of what I’m going to say now to you comes from him and if you want it, I’ll send it to you. He talks about reading the Bible upside down. Now if you still believe and you’re right to believe and I grant you, you can believe that what they say the Pope said about the Bible needing to become a new book is fake news – and I’m wondering why Google makes so sure that they make sure that everybody knows it’s fake news. I want you to know something: The Pope purportedly, if I have my facts straight, changed the Lord’s Prayer. Now a man who tampers with the Lord’s Prayer will tamper with anything. Amen?
Listen to what Dr. John says so that you can take it up with him if you don’t like what I say now. “As the dust settles around Pope Francis’ approval of changing the translation of the Lord’s Prayer…” – and it’s not just the translation you’ll see. Dr. John was very gentle there. He said because he changed the prayer with a translation and I’ll show you how he did that. I will show you exactly how he did that. He said “there’s one vital angle on this that has not received much attention. The implications of the Pope’s rationale for the change” – in other words what he’s saying is not only what did the Pope change, but why did he change it? What was his thinking behind the change? And this is crucial for us to understand. This is what the Pope says: “The Pope’s decision to approve the change from the traditional translation ‘lead us not into temptation’ to – and here’s how he changed it – ‘do not let us fall into temptation’ was based on this reported rationale by the Pope himself; Bergoglio said this. Now I’m a former detective. I can find out who said what. You know what a detective is? He’s a historian. He finds out what happened. And Bergoglio said this, and I quote him verbatim: ‘I am the one who falls. It’s not Him pushing me into temptation to then see how I have fallen.’ And Francis explained to Italian broadcasters about the phrase change. ‘A father doesn’t do that he says. A father helps you to get up immediately. It’s Satan who leads us into temptation – that’s his department.’ End of quote.
Now, others have weighed in on the exegetical and the theological problems with that change. And it’s not a new issue. Dr. John wrote this article 10 years ago and it was entitled ‘Does God lead us into temptation?’ Ten years ago Dr. John wrote this. All he says he wanted to do is to point out how the Pope’s reported rationale reveals an approach to Scripture that undermines its authority. It undermines the authority of Scripture – the rationale of the Pope. His approach is to do what Dr. John says you might call a hermeneutical headstand. Hermeneutics is the signs of interpretation for the young people. (I’m sorry I used that big word hermeneutics. I think it was Wordsworth who said you must never use a word that makes people reach for a dictionary.) It’s an interpretational headstand. The person who reads it like that goes and stands on his head while his interpreting the Scripture. He says ‘he turns things upside down.’ And here’s why he says that. You tell me tonight who says what fathers do. The Pope says ‘a good father does not do that.’ And the bulk of humanity run off: ‘I agree. My dad would never do that.’ So a good father wouldn’t do that. So what the Bible says must be wrong, because my dad wouldn’t do that, and God’s a better dad than my dad – so why would He do that? That sounds to your ears like that makes perfect sense does it not? Does it sound that way to you? It’s wrong thinking – it’s upside down thinking! Let me show you why. Dr. John says that – and I agree with him – he says: ‘who says what father’s do?’ Right side up, he says we would say the Bible teaches that God does such and such; therefore we should seek to discover the wisdom and the goodness of why we would act that way. That’s when we are thinking straight. The Bible tells us that God does so and so and we should seek to discover the wisdom and goodness of why He would do that like that. But standing on our heads, we would say: ‘We already know what is wise and good before the Bible tells us. We already know by watching our dads. We know what a good dad does. Before we know what the Bible says about it, we know.’ That’s standing on our heads! So if this text tells us God acts contrary to what we know then we conclude the text can’t mean that, because my dad wouldn’t lead me into temptation. If I read a text that says ‘lead us not into temptation Lord’, that text can’t mean that because that’s not like my dad. That’s upside down! Let me show you why that’s upside down and why it’s serious that it’s upside down. Right side up we would say: ‘The Bible teaches that God does such and such and we must discover what He says and do it.’ Daring progressive Christians say that the text is mistaken. And less daring progressives claim to hold fast to biblical authority while changing the meaning to fit their prior view of God. But in both cases, authority has shifted from where? Authority about what is right and wrong is shifted from where? It shifted from heaven to earth. Does that make sense to you? What if what you believe to be right is contradicted by the Bible? Who’s wrong? And if you’re uncomfortable with what the Bible says and you want to twist it to say what you wanted it to say, you have twisted the Word of God! It reminds me of that sign that I once saw in front of an iron mongers shop. It said: ‘all kinds of fancy twistings and turnings done here.’ Authority is shifted from heaven to earth if we do that. The Pope says: ‘A father doesn’t lead his children into temptation. Now, you can go check this – it is a fact like a brick. The Pope said: ‘A father does not lead his children into temptation. A father helps you to get up immediately. It’s Satan who leads us into temptation – that’s his department.’ End of quote. But as Dr. John says that is upside down. God is a good Father to His children. He’s a perfect Father and because He’s God and not a mere human being, His perfection should not be forced into the mould of our fallible views of what good fathers do or don’t do. He has perfect wisdom. He knows all things. Our heavenly Father does things no human father would do or should do or as Isaiah told us in chapter 40:28: “His understanding is inscrutable.”
- What does the Bible say?
The Bible tells us that God as a Father does things that no human father would – no good human father – would do or should do. Now let’s look at some things that no [good] human father does.
(i) No human father should take the life of his child as a sacrifice for other people, but that’s what God did – as a good Father. No human father should do that. But God as a good Father did that! And that’s why you and I are here. He did that to His one and only begotten Son who was perfectly pleasing to Him. And He did it as a good Father. “Surely, He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. Yet, we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted. Yet, it was the will of the Lord to crush Him. He has put Him to grief” (Isaiah 53:4). No human father should do that!
(ii) No human father should take the life of his child to spare that very child a worse fate, namely hell. No human father should take the lives of his children to save them from hell, but that’s what God sometimes does! 1 Corinthians chapter 11:30-32: “That is why some of you have died” he says, “But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined” – and in this case it’s with death – “so that we may not be condemned along with the world.” No human father should kill his children to save them from hell, but we’ve just seen from the Word that God as a Father, sometimes does that.
(iii) No human father should take the life of his child’s children to prove the faithfulness of his child, but that’s exactly what God did to Job’s children. Job chapter 1:19-22: “A great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house and it fell upon the young people and they are dead and I alone have escaped to tell you. Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped and he said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked shall I return. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the Name of the Lord.’ In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.”
(iv) No human father should send a famine on his children’s land. And no human father should send one of his children into slavery to be the means of saving his brothers. But God as a Father did both of these. Psalm 105:16-17: “When He summoned a famine on the land and broke all supply of bread, He had sent a man ahead of them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave.” Genesis chapter 50:20: “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good to bring it about that many people should be kept alive as they are today.”
And so the point here is not whether God leads us into temptation. The point is this: We should learn whether He does or not from Scripture – not from our own prior notions of what good fathers do or don’t do. Amen!?
Our notions are finite. Go and think back to the last thing that you couldn’t understand. Every one of your think back. What’s the last thing I couldn’t understand? That’s the tip of the iceberg of what you cannot understand. Our notions are finite and distorted by sin and by culture and we must continually hone them and refine them by what the Bible teaches – not by what conventional culture has made us accustomed to.
- The Lord’s Prayer
The Bible teaches that we should pray: “Our Father, lead us not into temptation.” It really does mean ‘lead into or bring into’ – you can see it in many Scriptures. It may mean ‘Father, since a man steps off from the Law, forbid we pray that any temptation we encounter by your leading would trap us and suck us in with no way of escape, for You are faithful and You have promised that with every temptation You will provide the way of escape that we may be able to endure it.’
To say that the Lord does not lead us into temptation – who led the Lord Jesus into the wilderness so that He may be tempted of the devil? It was the Holy Spirit! You see the point here? We must think right side up, and not upside down! But the Pope has gone and done it upside down. He thinks he can think better and do better than God and haven’t Pope’s done that for many centuries and I find myself in a cultural context where everybody is so nice to everyone else that Luther wouldn’t have survived five minutes in this culture. It was necessary for him to stand up then – it is necessary for us to stand up now, or he stood up for nothing! And I would like to see some brothers by my side. We do not shape how we think about this world by convention and culture. Our thinking is shaped by Scripture. The Lord teaches us what good fathers do – not convention. And God as a good Father sometimes does things that no good human father should do. I hope I have proved that point to you. I hope Dr. John has proved it to you. Amen!? Is it proof to you that the Lord sometimes does things as a good father that no human father should do?
It’s a scary thought that He can lead you into temptation, is it not? How many lessons He’s taught me with that! It’s a painful way to learn. There’s an easier way – let God be God and let man be man in your life – in your family. And when we start tampering with the Lord’s words we weary Him with our own and we start calling what is good bad what is bad good, what is true false and what is false we call true, what is beautiful we call ugly and what’s ugly beautiful and we weary the Lord with those words. We are the murmurers and so I do say if I overstated this morning when I said, I do beg your pardon. I’ll be more careful in the future – way more careful, but I want to follow up on this, this evening without digging in, and say this: What does it matter if we can prove that it’s fake news that the Pope did not say the Scripture is outdated, we need to update it, or we need a new book. If he’s already just recently done it with The Lord’s Prayer, then I acknowledge that it’s fake news that he said that, but I can tell you it’s not fake news that he did that and that should be enough to concern you, brothers and sisters. When God speaks, here’s what you and I do: We say ‘Yes, Lord. Amen Lord!’ I’ve often told you that in this Book [the Bible] I find many things that are counter-intuitive to me. They don’t gel with what’s inside of me. What’s in this Book does not come naturally to me. God has to argue with me. He has to fight with me every day – to believe every word – to make right what is wrong – make true what is false – save what is lost! And humanity must stop arguing with Him. Just hear what He says and do it and everything will be redeemed.